The Fine Friday Edit
I couldn’t end the year without talking about two of my favourite style icons, and what better time to celebrate both of these iconic men than by talking about their equally iconic time pieces.
For one of my last edits of the year, I felt it only right to talk about two of the world’s most stylish men: Steve McQueen and Paul Newman. No superlative can come close to really explain how iconic, timeless and naturally stylish these two men actually are, and 50 years after their passing they are still inspiring not only myself, but how the modern man dresses today. They are also still a frequent reference point for a host of designers seeking inspiration for their collections.
Whether you are a watch aficionado, or just a die hard fan of these two legendary Hollywood icons, you would have cancelled any last minute Christmas shopping plans to join a recent piece of iconic timepiece history. On the 12th December, Phillips auction house got the pulses of a global audience racing by hosting the final auction of 2020 from New York. The sale was led by Paul Newman’s Rolex, “Big Red” Daytona, which was sold for a staggering $5.4 million. This marked the third highest price ever paid for a Rolex.
If you thought that was hard to top, the auction was also followed by another record sale for any Tag Heur timepiece. This was the iconic Monaco, worn by Steve McQueen in the film Le Mans, which was gifted to his personal mechanic, Haig Alltounian, selling for a whopping $2.2 million. In one memorable evening in New York, two of the most important vintage watches of superb provenance were sold.
As well as having such a rich heritage and history, both of these watches are genuinely part of two icons of the silver screen. Both watches have two different sentimental and very personal stories attached to them, which makes them even more special.
The auction was kicked off with the Daytona “Big Red,” given to Paul Newman in 1983 by his wife Joanne Woodward, as a 25th anniversary present. The case back is engraved with the line: Drive slowly / Joanne. This is a relatively shallow engraving, making it difficult to clearly photograph, as you see above. The story goes that receiving this engraved message is what made Newman comfortable giving the legendary Paul Newman Daytona to James Cox a year later in 1984. The watch passed on to Newman’s daughter Clea after her father’s death in 2008.
Just when you thought the lot couldn’t be any more legendary, the second watch sold was one of the six Heuer Monaco watches used for the filming of the 1971 classic Le Mans. There is arguably no watch in the world made more famous by its appearance in a movie, and for good reason. Whether you’re a die hard car lover or someone who can barely find the gas pedal, McQueen just looks awesome every time he appears on screen, and the Monaco is no small part of that.
During filming, four of the six watches were kept by the prop master, and two were kept by McQueen himself. The watch auctioned is one of the two kept by McQueen. It was gifted to Haig Alltounian, McQueen’s mechanic and the chief mechanic on the film, and is engraved as such on the back. It reads: TO HAIG / LE MANS 1970.
As these iconic watches are regarded as the vintage watch Nirvana, I want to share some of my top tips when deciding what vintage watch to invest in. The vintage world is overwhelmingly vast, and can feel extremely intimidating. Although I don’t regard myself as a guru in this very sought after world, over the years I have picked up some quick win hacks to ensure you make the right choice, and pay the right price.
- If you are making your first foray into the vintage watch world, this doesn’t necessary mean you need to re-mortgaging your home. Invest in timeless classics, but don’t over-spend. There are a host of amazing Rolex Datejusts between £2,500 and £3,500. These are classic. Avoid the bigger watches, and consider a 36 millimeter size when considering a Datejust, which has become a very desirable shape and size over the past few years.
- Knowledge is power, so avoid any Del Boy sales patter when trying to source a specific model. Avoid saying ‘Datejust’ or ‘Submariner’ – try to be more specific and quote the reference number, because everything is searchable online with that.
- The devil is in the detail, so pay attention. An old black dial that the sun has turned chocolate-bar brown isn’t a defect, it’s ‘tropical,’ and now worth multiples. This may not be that noticeable to us mere mortals, but pay attention as this can mean added value. The more unusual the dial, generally indicates that less of that particular model was made, and the more valuable they are.
- You wouldn’t buy your fruit and veg from a grocer who doesn’t have a healthy turnover of fresh deliveries, so don’t commit any budget or time to a retailer or online platform that don’t show a refresh quota of stock on a monthly basis. You’re in the market for a vintage watch, not an artifact from Tutankhamun’s tomb.
- And finally, always trust your gut instinct. If you feel uncomfortable, step away. And if it what the dealer is offering feels too good to be true, it probably is. Many a seasoned buyer and watch collector has fallen foul of a pushy salesperson, so take your time, and trust your gut.